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Title: Project 57 Air Monitoring Report: January 1 through December 31, 2017

Abstract

On April 24, 1957, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) (now the Department of Energy [DOE]) conducted the Project 57 safety experiment in western Emigrant Valley northeast of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS, formerly the Nevada Test Site) on lands withdrawn by the Department of Defense (DOD) for the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The test was undertaken to develop (1) a means of estimating plutonium distribution resulting from a non-nuclear detonation; (2) biomedical evaluation techniques for use in plutonium-laden environments; (3) methods of surface decontamination; and (4) instruments and field procedures for prompt estimation of alpha contamination (Shreve, 1958). Although the test did not result in the fission of nuclear materials, it did disseminate plutonium across the land surface. Following the experiment, the AEC fenced the contaminated area and returned control of the surrounding land to the DOD. Various radiological surveys were performed in the area and in 2007, the DOE expanded the demarked Contamination Area (CA) by posting signs 200 to 400 ft (60 to 120 m) outside of the original fence. Plutonium in soil attaches preferentially to smaller particles (Tamura, 1985; Friesen, 1992; Murarik et al., 1992; and Misra et al., 1993). Therefore, redistribution of soilmore » particles by wind (dust) and water are the mechanisms most likely to transport plutonium beyond the boundary of the Project 57 CA. Monitoring was implemented in 2011 by Desert Research Institute (DRI) to determine if radionuclide contamination was detectable in samples of airborne dust and to characterize meteorological and environmental parameters that influence dust transport. Initially, two monitoring stations consisting of radiological, meteorological, and dust sampling equipment were installed near the southeast and northeast corners of the CA. In January 2015, the original monitoring stations were dismantled and moved farther to the west along the CA boundary. This move was made to place the monitoring stations downwind of ground zero and the High Contamination Area (HCA) during the dominant northerly and southerly winds. Samples of particles suspended in the air are collected every two weeks and submitted for laboratory assessments of gross alpha and gross beta radioactivity, and for determinations of gamma-emitting radionuclides. In calendar year (CY) 2017, the mean gross alpha concentration at monitoring station P57-4 was approximately 4.25 times the value at monitoring station P57-3. In CY2015 and CY2016, the difference in mean gross alpha concentration at the two stations was approximately 1.5. The mean gross alpha concentrations at P57-3 and P57-4 were approximately 1.9 and 7.9 times, respectively, the mean gross alpha concentrations at the surrounding Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) stations. The minimum gross alpha concentrations reported for the Project 57 stations are in the range of the minimum values observed at the CEMP stations. However, maximum gross alpha concentrations are greater than the maximum concentrations observed at the surrounding CEMP stations. Gamma spectroscopy analyses resulted in the detection of seven radionuclides. Except for americium-241 (Am-241), all reported radionuclides occur naturally in the environment. The Am-241 detection by gamma spectroscopy was confirmed by alpha spectroscopy. During each quarter of CY2017, four suspended particulate matter samples were selected for alpha spectroscopy analysis. Two were selected each quarter from the regular biweekly samples collected at each of the two monitoring stations. Of the eight samples from P57-3, one was reported to have plutonium-238 (Pu-238) above the minimum detectable activity (MDA) and five were reported to have plutonium 239/240 (Pu-239/240) above the MDA. Of the eight samples from P57-4, three were reported to have Pu-238 above the MDA and six were reported to have Pu-239/240 above the MDA. Soil material is also transported by saltation, which is a wind driven phenomena that bounces sand-sized soil particles across the land surface because they are too heavy to be suspended in the air. Samples of particles transported by saltation were collected downwind and upwind of the CA at both monitoring stations in May 2017 after a 190-day deployment and again in September 2017 after a 114-day deployment. Mass of the saltation samples was determined after oven drying. The September sample had greater mass than the May sample. The same relationship was observed for the suspended particulate matter samples during periods of saltation sample collection. The difference in the collected mass appears to be because of the amount of soil moisture. Higher soil moisture exerts additional isotopic bonds between soil particles and water molecules, and between water molecules that envelop soil particles, making it more difficult for wind to raise the particles as dust. In general, samples collected from saltation traps facing south contained more material than samples collected from traps facing north. This suggests that although saltation material may have been moving back and forth in conjunction with the two dominant wind directions, there was a net trend for saltation material to be transported toward the north. Radiological analyses of the saltation samples show that the smaller particle size faction (<63 μm) generally produced the highest activity levels of Am-241, Pu-238, and Pu-239/240. In general, the isotope activity levels decreased as the particle size increased. These results are consistent with the expectation that the greatest potential for transport of radiological contamination is with the smaller particles. Thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLDs) indicated that the average annual external radioactivity dose at the monitoring stations is slightly higher than the dose determined at the surrounding CEMP stations, but approximately half of the estimated national average dose received by the general public from exposure to natural sources. The TLDs at the Project 57 monitoring stations are exposed to both natural sources (terrestrial and cosmic) and radioactive releases from the Project 57 CA. Winds in excess of approximately 15 mph (24 km/hr) begin to generate dust movement by saltation or suspension, as determined by the monitoring instruments. Saltated particles, PM10 (i.e., inhalable dust), and PM2.5 (i.e., fine particulate dust) exhibit an approximately exponential increase with increasing wind speed. The greatest concentrations of dust occurred for winds exceeding 20 mph (32 km/hr). When the wind/dust analysis was performed for winds separated into the dominant northerly and southerly wind directions, it was evident that the northerly winds generated the higher PM10 concentrations and had the dominate influence on the PM10 concentration determined for all wind speeds when all wind directions were evaluated together. During the year, winds in excess of 20 mph (32 km/hr) occurred approximately one percent of the time. Although winds sufficient to generate dust occur at the Project 57 site, they are infrequent and of short duration. A preliminary assessment of individual wind events suggests that dust generation in response to specific wind conditions is highly variable. Wind speeds that would be expected to generate noticeable dust may not do so in every instance. Additionally, saltation transport in response to wind conditions was less common than expected. These variations were likely because of the influence of meteorological and environmental parameters other than wind.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [1];  [2];  [1]
  1. Desert Research Inst. (DRI), Las Vegas, NV (United States)
  2. Desert Research Inst. (DRI), Reno, NV (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Nevada Univ., Reno, NV (United States); Desert Research Inst. (DRI), Las Vegas, NV (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
OSTI Identifier:
1484365
Report Number(s):
DRI Pub #45286
DOE/NV/0003590-29
DOE Contract Number:  
NA0003590
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Project 57; Emigrant Valle; NNSS; Nevada National Security Site; Nevada Test Site; estimating plutonium distribution; non-nuclear detonation; biomedical evaluation; plutonium-laden environment; surface decontamination; alpha contamination; radiological surveys; plutonium transport; monitoring; radionuclide; meteorological; environmental; parameters; dust transport; dust sampling; gross alpha; gross beta; radioactivity; gamma-emitting radionuclides; downwind; CEMP; gamma spectroscopy; americium-241; alpha spectroscopy; plutonium0238; plutonium 239/240; saltation; upwind; soil moisture; isotopic bonds; Thermoluminescent dosimeters; suspension; inhalable dust; fine particulate dust; wind speed

Citation Formats

Mizell, Steve A., Nikolich, George, Healey, John M., Shadel, Craig, McCurdy, Greg, and Miller, Julianne J. Project 57 Air Monitoring Report: January 1 through December 31, 2017. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.2172/1484365.
Mizell, Steve A., Nikolich, George, Healey, John M., Shadel, Craig, McCurdy, Greg, & Miller, Julianne J. Project 57 Air Monitoring Report: January 1 through December 31, 2017. United States. doi:10.2172/1484365.
Mizell, Steve A., Nikolich, George, Healey, John M., Shadel, Craig, McCurdy, Greg, and Miller, Julianne J. Thu . "Project 57 Air Monitoring Report: January 1 through December 31, 2017". United States. doi:10.2172/1484365. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1484365.
@article{osti_1484365,
title = {Project 57 Air Monitoring Report: January 1 through December 31, 2017},
author = {Mizell, Steve A. and Nikolich, George and Healey, John M. and Shadel, Craig and McCurdy, Greg and Miller, Julianne J.},
abstractNote = {On April 24, 1957, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) (now the Department of Energy [DOE]) conducted the Project 57 safety experiment in western Emigrant Valley northeast of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS, formerly the Nevada Test Site) on lands withdrawn by the Department of Defense (DOD) for the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The test was undertaken to develop (1) a means of estimating plutonium distribution resulting from a non-nuclear detonation; (2) biomedical evaluation techniques for use in plutonium-laden environments; (3) methods of surface decontamination; and (4) instruments and field procedures for prompt estimation of alpha contamination (Shreve, 1958). Although the test did not result in the fission of nuclear materials, it did disseminate plutonium across the land surface. Following the experiment, the AEC fenced the contaminated area and returned control of the surrounding land to the DOD. Various radiological surveys were performed in the area and in 2007, the DOE expanded the demarked Contamination Area (CA) by posting signs 200 to 400 ft (60 to 120 m) outside of the original fence. Plutonium in soil attaches preferentially to smaller particles (Tamura, 1985; Friesen, 1992; Murarik et al., 1992; and Misra et al., 1993). Therefore, redistribution of soil particles by wind (dust) and water are the mechanisms most likely to transport plutonium beyond the boundary of the Project 57 CA. Monitoring was implemented in 2011 by Desert Research Institute (DRI) to determine if radionuclide contamination was detectable in samples of airborne dust and to characterize meteorological and environmental parameters that influence dust transport. Initially, two monitoring stations consisting of radiological, meteorological, and dust sampling equipment were installed near the southeast and northeast corners of the CA. In January 2015, the original monitoring stations were dismantled and moved farther to the west along the CA boundary. This move was made to place the monitoring stations downwind of ground zero and the High Contamination Area (HCA) during the dominant northerly and southerly winds. Samples of particles suspended in the air are collected every two weeks and submitted for laboratory assessments of gross alpha and gross beta radioactivity, and for determinations of gamma-emitting radionuclides. In calendar year (CY) 2017, the mean gross alpha concentration at monitoring station P57-4 was approximately 4.25 times the value at monitoring station P57-3. In CY2015 and CY2016, the difference in mean gross alpha concentration at the two stations was approximately 1.5. The mean gross alpha concentrations at P57-3 and P57-4 were approximately 1.9 and 7.9 times, respectively, the mean gross alpha concentrations at the surrounding Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) stations. The minimum gross alpha concentrations reported for the Project 57 stations are in the range of the minimum values observed at the CEMP stations. However, maximum gross alpha concentrations are greater than the maximum concentrations observed at the surrounding CEMP stations. Gamma spectroscopy analyses resulted in the detection of seven radionuclides. Except for americium-241 (Am-241), all reported radionuclides occur naturally in the environment. The Am-241 detection by gamma spectroscopy was confirmed by alpha spectroscopy. During each quarter of CY2017, four suspended particulate matter samples were selected for alpha spectroscopy analysis. Two were selected each quarter from the regular biweekly samples collected at each of the two monitoring stations. Of the eight samples from P57-3, one was reported to have plutonium-238 (Pu-238) above the minimum detectable activity (MDA) and five were reported to have plutonium 239/240 (Pu-239/240) above the MDA. Of the eight samples from P57-4, three were reported to have Pu-238 above the MDA and six were reported to have Pu-239/240 above the MDA. Soil material is also transported by saltation, which is a wind driven phenomena that bounces sand-sized soil particles across the land surface because they are too heavy to be suspended in the air. Samples of particles transported by saltation were collected downwind and upwind of the CA at both monitoring stations in May 2017 after a 190-day deployment and again in September 2017 after a 114-day deployment. Mass of the saltation samples was determined after oven drying. The September sample had greater mass than the May sample. The same relationship was observed for the suspended particulate matter samples during periods of saltation sample collection. The difference in the collected mass appears to be because of the amount of soil moisture. Higher soil moisture exerts additional isotopic bonds between soil particles and water molecules, and between water molecules that envelop soil particles, making it more difficult for wind to raise the particles as dust. In general, samples collected from saltation traps facing south contained more material than samples collected from traps facing north. This suggests that although saltation material may have been moving back and forth in conjunction with the two dominant wind directions, there was a net trend for saltation material to be transported toward the north. Radiological analyses of the saltation samples show that the smaller particle size faction (<63 μm) generally produced the highest activity levels of Am-241, Pu-238, and Pu-239/240. In general, the isotope activity levels decreased as the particle size increased. These results are consistent with the expectation that the greatest potential for transport of radiological contamination is with the smaller particles. Thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLDs) indicated that the average annual external radioactivity dose at the monitoring stations is slightly higher than the dose determined at the surrounding CEMP stations, but approximately half of the estimated national average dose received by the general public from exposure to natural sources. The TLDs at the Project 57 monitoring stations are exposed to both natural sources (terrestrial and cosmic) and radioactive releases from the Project 57 CA. Winds in excess of approximately 15 mph (24 km/hr) begin to generate dust movement by saltation or suspension, as determined by the monitoring instruments. Saltated particles, PM10 (i.e., inhalable dust), and PM2.5 (i.e., fine particulate dust) exhibit an approximately exponential increase with increasing wind speed. The greatest concentrations of dust occurred for winds exceeding 20 mph (32 km/hr). When the wind/dust analysis was performed for winds separated into the dominant northerly and southerly wind directions, it was evident that the northerly winds generated the higher PM10 concentrations and had the dominate influence on the PM10 concentration determined for all wind speeds when all wind directions were evaluated together. During the year, winds in excess of 20 mph (32 km/hr) occurred approximately one percent of the time. Although winds sufficient to generate dust occur at the Project 57 site, they are infrequent and of short duration. A preliminary assessment of individual wind events suggests that dust generation in response to specific wind conditions is highly variable. Wind speeds that would be expected to generate noticeable dust may not do so in every instance. Additionally, saltation transport in response to wind conditions was less common than expected. These variations were likely because of the influence of meteorological and environmental parameters other than wind.},
doi = {10.2172/1484365},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {11}
}